Australia to allow greater US naval access to west coast
SYDNEY - Australia has flagged that it will allow greater US naval access in the country's west, as Washington demonstrates its "Asia pivot" is focused not just on the Asia Pacific but also on the Indian Ocean.
The issue will be discussed at high-level talks this week between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and their Australian counterparts Bob Carr and Stephen Smith.
Mrs Clinton and Mr Panetta arrived in Perth on Tuesday for meetings that kick off a week-long focus by the newly-elected Obama administration on Asia. Mrs Clinton will next visit Singapore, Thailand and Cambodia, and then join President Barack Obama for a historic visit to Myanmar, before he concludes his tour at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia.
The talks in Australia will look at expanding US maritime access to the HMAS Stirling naval base on Australia's west coast and improving US air access to Australian bases in the north. Australia has signalled that increased naval access will almost certainly occur but not in the short-term as the base would need to be upgraded to allow use by US ships.